Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What are my options?

After the school board meeting in June, the Superintendent met with the Parent Committee to discuss their concerns.  Then a meeting was called by the Superintendent to include the Parent Comittee and the Site Council to present some financial changes for the upcoming school year (2011-2012).  We were anxious to see how our specific concerns had been addressed, only to be told that the entire funding formula at the state level has changed and so our understanding of percentages no longer applied in the same manner.

Another meeting followed on August 1st, which included the Parent Committee, Site Council, Carol VanWormer, Becky Cooke, and John Glenewinkel (superintendent of East Valley Schools).  At this meeting the concerns for the program funding were very clearly stated, and John Glenewinkel was very helpful with providing an objective view of how Homelink operates.  The meeting did provide discussion of a new possibility, that East Valley could participate in a transition year for Homelink, with the intention of taking over the program (under district hosting), while allowing it to remain in the buildings at Deer Park.

By the end of the meeting, we were able to get some answers on several things that give us an idea of how the program in Deer Park will look in the fall.  These are confirmed to the best of our ability, although with continuing changes, there may be additional adjustments to the following:
  • Shorten the school year by 4 weeks for non-academic students (saves $10,000/week)
  • Limit students to 5 classes per week, which allows the elimination of 40-50 classes (saves $1000/class)
  • Increase classroom supply budget to previous levels.
  • Shorter day due to no bussing before or after classes, while keeping lunchtime bussing (saves $25,000)
  • A reduced curriculum allottment of $250 per student (with possible exceptions made for high-need students)
  • No private lessons outside of Home Link classes per the Board 
  • Two full-time and one part-time consultants laid off at the end of the school year, and one retired that will not be replaced (two vacant consultant positions will be re-hired if enrollment numbers remain at previous levels)
The day after the above mentioned meeting, Becky Cooke stated that she would like to return allotment levels to $500/student, but would require enrollment of at least 400 students to convince the board to dip into reserves to fund those allotments.  It was again communicated to Becky that Homelink is already a "stand alone" program. In actuality, it is the other buildings that are dependent on the funds that Homelink brings into the district. In that light, the reserve is not being tapped into in order to "save Homelink", but to serve the other buildings that have become dependent on Homelink dollars, so that Homelink can continue to operate. The fact is that if Homelink were to suffer greatly in enrollment, affecting the entire district, the reserves would be accessed in a hearbeat to save the other building programs. This is a disparity that seems to indicate loud and clear that Homelink is less valuable than the rest of the district.


So what can parents/families do if they are unsatisfied with the changes to DP Homelink?  The superintendent at East Valley School District is very willing to host our program which would provide the following for families that switch:
  • Budgeted $500 per student curriculum allotment.
  • Will rent a facility on the North side of Spokane (looking into locations already)
  • Students enrolled in EV district can join any district program like the Aviation High School at Felts Field, or utilize their EV Online or Virtual Learning Options.
  • Although state has eliminated private lessons, they are willing to think outside the box and look at options like contracting with private studios or instructors - as long as it is permissible within the laws.
  • Willing to start a parent-driven, student-centered program with a minimum of 50 students, with 300 students the program would look and feel very similar to DP Homelink, with 500 students John is confident his district could provide "a Cadillac program".
  • Superintendent of EV has years of experience starting and running ALE programs.
  • Board Chairman's wife works for District 81's Homelink Program (TEC), and has a passion for alternative learning. He also has four more years as an unopposed chairman.
  • EV believes it is possible to grow a program right after state budget cuts rather than reduce a program.
  • They are willing to financially carry the program until we can grow and support ourselves.
Many parents believe that East Valley School District is better equipped and prepared to support a parent partnership that is dedicated to providing for its students.  The educational philosophy of EV is vastly different than that of DP, serving a number of ALE programs which are all created to serve the individual needs of the enrolled students.

Many details are still being worked out on a daily basis. Ultimately, we have had open and transparent conversations with EV’s Superintendent, Board President and Business Manager. They are extremely supportive of alternative learning, providing the best education for each child and allowing the parents to be involved.

If you are interested in exploring what EV  has to offer, please consider taking action in the following ways:
  • Attend an informational meeting with EV Superintendent John Glenewinkel on Tuesday, August 9th, frm 7-9pm at Crossover Church (on Hwy 2, across from Cat Tales).
  • Using the "contact us" page at the EV website, tell them you would like to enroll for this fall -- this does NOT obligate you to switching programs, it simply gives EV a known quantity of interested families for planning purposes, as well as communicates to DP Homelink/Becky Cooke that you are willing to switch districts.


  1. I am very excited to hear the Superintendents philosophy for ALE programs! The "start" of each new school year in Sept. is always an adventure that requires renewed submission to God's plan. I pray that we all seek Him first in our decisions. Thank you to the parent team from Homelink that has been working so diligently behind the scenes throughout the summer. ~T

  2. Thank you for putting this together and keeping us informed! I really appreciate all you have done!

  3. One of the luxuries we have as Americans is freedom of choice. In this world of turmoil, we also have a choice in how we respond to uncertainty.

    As the government has made changes to the laws regarding education, those decisions have impacted us. Those changes make this an opportune time to re-examine our lives and our priorities. One of my priorities is to try to give my children the best education possible. To that end, we have thoroughly enjoyed DPHL. The kids have relished the warm, welcoming environment of DPHL, the staff/consultants/teachers, the opportunities to "try something new" with the class variety, and enjoyed the social time with friends. We are grateful and thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of DPHL.

    I understand many of the frustrations that have developed over this past year. As such, the excitement of creating a new program with EVSD may be an option some families will consider and proceed with. However, regardless of the choices that will be made in the weeks ahead, I hope we can all accept those decisions, recognize that what works for one may not work for all, and treat one another with respect, dignity, and love.

    May we use this time of uncertainty as an opportunity to glorify Christ!

  4. I am burdened and concerned about the current situation that has been brewing among the Homelink parents. I am reminded of why we are in the program to begin with. Is it because we want money for curriculum or other activities for our children? Is it to provide a unique social setting aspect for our kids to add to our homeschooling experience? Since we have made the choice to HOMEschool why are we all getting our feathers ruffled at every change and state and district decisions? Homelink is a privilege to aid our children’s experience. I think that unfortunately it has become more about the parents and what we want and not enough about the kids.

    In regards to the EVSD option…as a family member of one who works in the administrative areas of EVSD, of course the superintendent would jump at the opportunity to make an additional ALE program. He would be stupid not to. He is basically being handed thousands up to millions of dollars of FTE money to help fund his district. Who wouldn’t jump at this chance? It makes logical, economical sense. Also, remember that EVSD is the same district that had to close one of its middle schools at the end of this year due to budget cuts. The most important information though that I feel was left out in the above blog is that fact that Mr. John Glenewinkel stated very clearly to the parent and DP school board that the BEST option is to work things out with the Deer Park District.
    Considering all of the information that is milling about, I have found that my concern still lies with the kids. Therefore, I have a few questions for the parents to ponder.

    • Are you as a parent responding emotionally because you feel offended by DPSD?
    • Are you basing your decisions on what has been in the past, therefore you want it for the future?
    • Are you considering what this turmoil is doing to your child/children?
    • Has DPHL provided your child/children an opportunity to grow and enjoy what an ALE program has to offer? (Remembering that many ALE programs don’t even offer classes at all, and if they do they are severely limited, and many simply are online schools.)
    • Have you benefited from the program in any way shape or form?
    • If yes to the above question, then why would you consider leaving the program that has been so beneficial?

    I am simply attempting to give another perspective as a DPHL parent. Please consider ALL of your options. Remember the longevity of DPHL and the benefits that it has provided your family in the past. Support DPHL by continuing to enroll your children rather than jumping ship for a seemingly easier route. Consider your child/children first and foremost and not your own preferences.

  5. VERY WELL SAID MCALL CLAN! Thanks for your input! I am choosing to stay with DPHL because of what it has to offer my kids right now, this year. It has taken over a decade for DPHL to become the wonderful program it is today and it still is one of the best ALE programs in the state as far as the classes and community it has to offer for my kids. Not that I think EV can develop one too but it will NOT happen over night, this year or even next year at that. I am choosing what is best for my kids and my family right now not five years from now. I do not like this whole "poll taking" and and who is "in" and who is "out" stuff. People leave home link year after year to different programs that suit their families needs. We don't need to start taking sides and polls about it. If you want to go to another program then just go and be happy about the decision you are making. I am happy to stay with DPHL and I don't hold anything against anyone for going elsewhere.

  6. I agree, we need to respect each others choice. By attending the 2 meetings this week I will be making an informed choice.
    I would like to respond to McCall Clans questions she posted. First, yes I AM offended by DPSD. The superintendent is tying the hand of our principal, while stripping our program of its resources. Remember, 3 years ago our children were allowed 15 class choices, last year 10 and now just 5. What will next year look like? And more important, why is the money that my children bring in to this district not staying with the Homelink program?
    Homelink has provided exactly what we needed in the past, but it is changing, not by Carol VanWormer wanting to run it her way, not by the parents deciding what is best for our children, but rather by the district TAKING what is best for them.
    And of course my family has benefited greatly from this program! Had we not, we would not have stayed.
    The last question is "If yes to the above question, then why would you consider leaving the program that has been so beneficial?" This is not an easy question. I would not even consider looking elsewhere if the parents voices were heard in the district. By taking the HUGE step to enroll our children in the public school we are entrusting ourselves to that system. The district sees this as a business. I disagree with them taking the funding our children bring and distributing it to the other buildings. We are funding 17 (17!-do the math) teachers that are not Homelink teachers. But that is not enough for them as they continue to take money from our classes and our curriculum allotment! I saw on the Homelink webpage that the super added our curriculum allotment back in after this uproar, with the stipulation that we must enroll at least 400 students. So now she wants me to influence your decision and sway you to keep your children in Homelink so I can buy school books for mine? Really?
    Please, let's be respectful of each family's choice as I am certain they will not made easily or lightheartedly.
    Lastly, I would like to remind everyone this. The districts attitude towards Homelink at the last board meeting the parents attended when asked some hard questions they didn't like or want to answer was best stated by the board chairman when he said this, "Maybe it is time to take your children and go home!"
    This is why I am looking into other options.

  7. On the polling - the only reason for the polling is to provide information that will help EV build a program and help DP know how to plan for their school year. It's not meant to pressure - it's only meant to provide information for both programs.

  8. My two cents worth. I have not made my choice yet, I am a returning parent after a year away from DPHL and it is dissapointing that the program is under continual turmoil. Let's be clear on one thing, "the government" did not make changes to the funding of the ALE program, the district/superintendant did. I DO NOT agree that money received for the homelink program should be used to fund 17 non homelink teachers while our consultants are being let go. I am fine with some classes being cut, but only allowed to take 5 classes a week is severly disappointing!!! And to address the money issue obviously that is/was a perk to the program that provided a BETTER EDUCATION for my daughter so the lack of an allotment does factor into my decision and that does not make me a money hungry parent! The district has the money, provided by this program, and the superintendant is playing enrollment games while funding the other schools in the district. I am involved in a program for many reasons, (e.g. classes and money both provide a better education!) if I wanted to solely HOMESCHOOL, I have that option. A lot of negativity is coming from the supporters of DPHL in regard to parents switching districts and that simple fact is making me feel like switching. I called politicians, I wrote letters and left messages when the program needed me. I wish the program was here and supported by the district, now that I need it :o/

  9. I found the ALE common questions section of the OSPI website helpful to explain the "nitty gritty" of ALEs in Washington. www.digitallearning.k12.wa.us/ale/support/faq.php

  10. With great respect, I want to write this post to offer my thanks to all of the women and families on all sides of this equation.

    Regardless of the choices that we make, whether we stay with DPHL, or whether choose another solution for our families, we owe the Parent Committee a debt of respect and gratitude.

    These women gave up countless hours to research, and to attend meetings that I didn't attend. They made numberous phone calls both to rally support to change DPSD's mind and also to offer parents other options for their children.

    These women sacrificed their time, money, and stress load to find a solution for the families of Deer Park Homelink.

    The alotment enjoyed by DPHL this year is a direct result of their tenacious, and informed presence at board meetings this year, and also the impending threat of other options for DP families. Without this pressure, Deer Park SD would have had little reason to offer anything but meager finances to the program, putting Carol Van Wormer in a complete stress vice.

    To Carol Van Wormer and the lovely staff of DPHL we are deeply grateful for and sincerely value the blood, sweat, and tears that have been invested in this program over the last decade. You have blessed so many families!

    Carol and the women of the Parent Commitee gave up their carefree summers for stress and work that have blessed every family that either stays with DPHL or leaves DPHL.

    For my family, the cost of gas does not offset the benefit of the State alotment. I wish DP would have had the vision to create DPHL-South : ) I love and have been so blessed by DPHL.

    With ESV willing to offer a quality program at my back-door, my family is excited to enjoy their leadership and vision. It does not matter to me that we will have a rough start. We are homeschoolers! We choose to be independent of the State; we choose to be selective in the leadership we receive from the State. We do not need to be depend on anyone for a program, but we are excited to take part in the "best of both worlds".

    I have loved and enjoyed the families of Deer Park Homelink. I have learned much from others. I pray God's grace on you as you seek Him for your schooling decisions.

    Just as how we school our children is not lightly made - and made before the Lord, so where we school is, with a clear conscience, and pure heart, decided before the Lord.

    God bless you as you seek His heart for your schooling this year.

    Kathleen Smith

  11. If you are attending tonight's meeting please spend time with the Lord today. Ask Him for ears to hear the truth in what is said but also what is not being spoken. Ask for wisdom and His direction in making your choice.

  12. Kathy you put into words what is in my heart! I too have been blessed by the parent counsel and the hours, stress, and commitment! Thank you Kathy!